“I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, while the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.” Isaac Newton
“It is, to me, impossible to contemplate the initial observations that have been made in the astronomical, molecular, atomic, subatomic, and biological disciples without humility—without reaching the self-evident conclusion that it is very unlikely that the real world can be entirely understood by the mind of man.” Arthur B. Robinson
“Blaise Pascal was also a very proud man. But he put aside his pride to bow himself down at the altar rail with his fellow Christians, whomsoever they might be, in perfect brotherliness. This was an important aspect of Pascal. Before scientist became as arrogant as many of them are today, he, a superlatively great scientist, practiced true humility, which is the greatest of all virtues. Indeed, as he points out, humility is the very condition of virtue.” Malcolm Muggeridge, The End of Christendom, p. 7
Science Under Siege
Access to Energy, April 2012 (Vol. 39 no. 9)
“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” – The Epistle of Paul to the Philippians, Chapter 4, Verse 8. “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” – The Gospel According to John, Chapter 8, Verse 32.
These Biblical passages encapsulate the essence of science. Scientists observe the things around them, especially those that are pure and lovely, and describe them with truth and honesty.
In fitting those observations into an intellectually ordered scheme, scientists create models that are inherently complex – although the simpler the models are, the more they are to be preferred. Complexity in scientific models usually arises from imperfect understanding of the observed phenomena. The greatest theoretical scientists are those who have simplified the models in their fields.
Chapter 14 entitled “The Christian Foundation of Science in America” in the book Confirm Thy Soul, America by James A. Weber argues convincingly that Christian belief— that a specific deity created all things – gave early scientists their motivation to look for order in that creation, as opposed to earlier civilizations that did not have reason to expect order. Scientists believed an ordered physical world created by an omnipotent creator was there to be discovered, so they were motivated to learn as much about it as they could.
Just the concept of linear time, as compared with endless cycles of time as was a dominant dogma during much of antiquity, was fundamental to the development of modem science.
Isaac Newton, wrote, “When I wrote my Treatise about our system [Principia, his monumental work containing most of his discoveries in physics], I had an Eye upon such Principles as might work with considering Men, for the Belief of a Deity, and nothing can rejoice me more than to find it useful for that purpose.”
Isaac Newton also looked on his work on Biblical prophecy, published in his book Observations Upon the Prophecies of Daniel and the Apocalypse of St. John, as an effort to enhance Biblical belief. He stated that the Biblical books of prophecy were provided so that, as they are historically fulfilled, they provide a continuing testimony to the fact that the world is governed by the Providence of God.
Summarizing in the second edition of Principia, Isaac Newton wrote “The true God is a living, intelligent, and powerful being. His duration reaches from eternity to eternity; His presence from infinity to infinity. He governs all things.”
Chapter 14 of James Weber’s book contains similar testimonies from early giants of science including Pascal, Boyle, Leibniz, Ampere, Ohm, Morse, Faraday, Babbage, Mendel, Pasteur, Joule, Kelvin, Maxwell, and many others.
He quotes Werner von Braun as saying, “I find it as difficult to understand a scientist who does not acknowledge the presence of a superior rationality behind the existence of the universe as it is to
comprehend a theologian who would deny the advances of science … There are those who argue that the universe evolved out of a random process, but what random process could produce the brain of a man or the system of the human eye? To be forced to believe only one conclusion – mat everything in the universe happened by chance – would violate the very objectivity of science itself.”
Weber lists three example causes under his subheading “Decay and Death of Science” – “extreme environmentalism which has retrogressively resurrected the false pagan view that God is in nature, contrary to the Christian belief that God created nature”; “materialistic evolutionism, [which holds that] the world was not created by God but rather existed eternally and all living things have evolved by chance”; and “the absolute belief that truth can only be achieved through empirical science rather than philosophy or theology.”
To me, most of this is complicated beyond my own comprehension -and I find this incomprehension unsurprising. In addition to the privilege of having been able to live a life enriched by the discoveries and the scientific method developed by the scientists listed above and many others, I value two particularly useful traits – humility and a devotion to the truth.
It is, to me, impossible to contemplate the initial observations that have been made in the astronomical, molecular, atomic, subatomic, and biological disciplines without humility – without reaching the self-evident conclusion that it is very unlikely that the real world can be entirely understood by the mind of man.
While we-can observe many natural phenomena and manipulate some to enhance our lives, our current understanding of the physical world is an almost indiscernible scratch upon the whole. As Isaac Newton put it, “I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, while the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me” – and Isaac Newton was the greatest scientist of us all.
Progress in science depends upon — the truth. And “truth” is under siege throughout our nation.
Truth, as revealed by reason and the quantitative scientific method and applied by our minds, probably will not empower those limited minds to comprehend the universe — but it is certainly our most powerful tool for prospering within that universe.
And, we are allowing our civilization to abandon the truth. Our energy systems have been severely damaged by lies. Our productive people are being oppressed by lies. Our government is controlled by liars. Our media is dominated by liars. And our key social systems have lost their respect for the truth. Even many of our churches have compromised on their most basic principles.
The truth – is definitely the key tool that has made us free. And, as we abandon the truth – we are losing our freedom.
The war between the truth and the lie in our nation is not over, but
it is not going well – and true science is under siege.